|First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
||[Feb. 8th, 2011|06:00 pm]
Life's a motherfucker sometimes. Imagine you have some of the best work you've ever done about to hit the streets, and you overdose on some drugs and asphyxiate. Well, that's what happened to Jimi Hendrix.
"First Rays of the New Rising Sun" was one of the tentative titles to the upcoming album by Hendrix. It was intended to be at least a double album; Hendrix composed so much that the possibility of a triple album wasn't out of the question. Most of the songs were 100% or near-complete, and every possible song has been included on various posthumous albums and compilations since that time.
Of all the songs composed during the "First Rays" build (1968-1970), I could see at least 5 being singles. "Stepping Stone" was released as a single in the spring of 1970, but Jimi didn't like the arrangement Buddy Miles used on the single, so that summer, Mitch Mitchell and Jimi redid the drums and added some more overdubs to the mix. The 2nd version (which might have been part of "First Rays") can be found on the posthumous album "War Heroes."
"Izabella" is a bouncing ripper about a man fighting an actual war and an emotional one, being wrapped up in a woman that goes by the song's name, and it was the b-side to the "Stepping Stone" single. "Freedom" is an excellent tune about a person feeling up against the wall, about to be pushed to extremes, by unnamed forces. "Freedom" was first featured on the posthumous album "The Cry of Love," which is one of the three posthumous albums that contain almost all of Jimi's planned "First Rays" album. The other two are "Rainbow Bridge" and the aforementioned "War Heroes."
"Ezy Rider" appears to be partly inspired from the movie of similar name, and it was first released on "The Cry of Love" album. "Valleys of Neptune" probably wasn't intended for the album, and it was in a rough form at the time, but the estate managed to release a polished version of it last year on the album of the same name. Another blazing tune about a woman is "Dolly Dagger", but unlike the woman in "Izabella," Dolly operates with deadly behavior. "Dolly" can also be found on "Rainbow Bridge."
"Angel" is probably more well-known among casual listeners because it has been included on more than a few compilations. It's one of Jimi's more beautiful tunes, and the airy sonic quality of the track makes for perfect accompaniment for the subject material.
"In from the Storm" was a regular appearance in Jimi's later concerts, and the video I linked is a solid live performance of "Storm" from the Isle of Wight concert. Jimi ends by thanking the crowd, and he parts ways with "Peace and happiness and all that other good shit!"
Besides those songs, there are more that could have been singles. Many albums have a few non-worthy songs on them, and you could call the rest 'filler,' but in the case of "First Rays," it would be an unfair term. Every one of Jimi's final creations ring with near-solid quality to that of the previously-mentioned tracks. I can't think of one from the final material that is a dud. Outside of the rough audio quality and bareness of some songs like "Belly Button Window", the rest is, at worst, merely good.
Of the rest, there are two instrumentals that blow me away. "Beginnings" is a nice loose instrumental jam, one that I can put on repeat and not get tired of it. The drums 2 minutes into "Beginnings" are majestic.
However, every time I hear the instrumental "Cherokee Mist," I get lost in my subconscious.
Jimi's guitar says everything. In many parts Jimi organized the guitar into a steady rhythm, marching along with the fury of the whole with an occasional string's extended wail of defiance. In some parts, the guitar is subdued and peaceful. It feels like what it might be like if one could shoot through the diameter of a hurricane, complete with a section in the middle that reminds me of the eye of the storm. Balancing "Cherokee" out is the onslaught of some of the best drumming on all of Jimi's songs. I get a rush every time I listen to it.